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University of Adelaide

Shakespeare Matters

University of Adelaide via edX


Shakespeare’s work has influenced the way we think about our relationships and ourselves. His plays are still as relevant today as when they were written almost 400 years ago.

In this introductory course, you will learn how Shakespeare uses emotion in his plays, how his characters experience and manipulate emotions, and how the emotional resonance of the plays makes them powerfully relevant to the modern world.

As you follow and engage with the emotional journeys of characters in tragedy, comedy, tragicomedy, and history; you will discover patterns of plot, action, and speech that will help you appreciate, understand, and discuss Shakespeare’s plays.

Each week of the course will focus on a different emotion. You’ll cover the range of emotions found in Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Othello, The Winter’s Tale, and King Henry V.

This course includes interactive activities, and interviews with a range of people engaged creatively and professionally with Shakespeare’s plays. You’ll be encouraged to interpret Shakespeare in your own way - to find ‘your Shakespeare.’

You will learn how to read a Shakespeare play and gain the tools you need to interpret its language. You will also have the opportunity to experience what it’s like to direct scenes from the plays. And you’ll learn about the various kinds of Shakespearean drama, and the dramatic and poetic techniques Shakespeare uses to investigate the human condition.



Taught by

Dr. Lucy Potter , Dr. Joy McEntee , Galen Cuthbertson , Dr. Edward Palmer , Aidan Coleman , Mahendra Chitrarasu and Prasanna Nidumolu


4.8 rating, based on 49 Class Central reviews

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  • Anonymous
    The best place to start with Shakespeare is his book – or better yet, his book brought to life on the stage, as it was intended. I started with his book. It gave me time to get to grips with the language. Shakespeare’s poetry – like all good poetry…
  • Profile image for Andrew Deakin
    Andrew Deakin
    An excellent and enjoyable course on Shakespeare. An informative introduction for beginners, and many new insights for those familiar with Shakespeare and looking to deepen their appreciation. The course has an astute selection of five plays with…
  • I greatly enjoyed this course and found it surprisingly enlightening. It focuses on the context and emotional character of two speeches per play. Lots of opportunity to express one's views is provided (required, even) and the final assignment includes opportunity to do your own reading of one of the speeches. Three of the plays were very familiar to me; one was totally unfamiliar, and another was one I expected to skip - sorry, I'm bored by the history plays - but it turned out to deliver a real insight into Henry V and the role of emotions. Compact, fun little course packs a lot of punch.

    FMI see more detailed post on my personal blog at
  • Anonymous
    I really enjoyed this course. It cleverly catered to first time learners and those who were already acquainted with Shakespeare. The video/transcript system worked well for catering to different learning styles. I enjoyed having the opportunity t…
  • Anonymous
    An excellent course: I learned a lot, and I am very grateful for all of the hard work that went into creating it. My only suggestion for improvement would be to redo a few of the videos of actors playing scenes. For the soliloquies it is absolutely fine for a single person to read. However, for readings of monologues, it's a bit confusing if they are not played to another person. I would also suggest recruiting acting students to play scenes with more than one person talking. Or, if you have the Fairness Doctrine in Australia, perhaps you could take snippets of films for educational purposes. Shakespeare is a genius, but not even his words alone are enough to bring a scene alive, to transmit meaning.
  • Profile image for Lisa Cotie
    Lisa Cotie
    I thoroughly enjoyed Shakespeare Matters. I decided to take the course to hone my skills in teaching Shakespeare. As a teacher in an Urban school district on the United States, it is important to me to present Shakespeare's work in a way that relates to the world today, while also bolstering literacy. This course helped me find new ways to do that. I would recommend this course, as a refresher, as a building block, and as chance for Professional Development. If University of Adelaide were to offer more courses in Shakespeare or other prominent playwrights, I would definitely sign up for those courses, too!
  • Anonymous
    Well run and comprehensive course. i enjoyed the interactions which can be done at your own pace. I learnt much about Shakespeare, how the plays originated and the meanings behind them and characters. i recommend Shakespeare lovers and any who wish to have an introduction to Shakespeare's works.
  • Lorry Leader
    This extremely well-structured and thought-provoking course makes excellent use of selected speeches from Shakespeare’s plays and asks quite searching questions as well as offering lots of fascinating information. I found it genuinely instructive, a…
  • Anonymous
    'Shakespeare Matters' was informative as well as fun. I really enjoyed the combination of videos, text analysis, interviews, discussions and assignments. The interviewees were all very enthusiastic. Thanks! I thought it good that each session covered a different emotional theme. It was suitable for first-time Shakespeare learners as well as providing new insights for those who have experienced the plays before. It was a good idea to see parts of the plays performed. Being able to discuss with other learners in the online forums in real time was excellent. The whole course seemed very personal, almost like being on campus with the presenters (but come on Lucy, you can smile...) :)
  • Ann Rapp
    This course is well-designed to make us think about what Shakespeare was getting at, the social comment and message of his most important plays. Thanks to the instructors who passed on to students their passion and commitment to showing us the meaning of Shakespeare's beautiful language and its relevance to the historical period. And they managed to pass on their knowledge and experience in lighthearted and fun ways that made the lessons easy to understand.
    Cleverly designed for a beginner or anyone with a background knowledge of Shakespeare , this course will open up new treasures to be found in his works and show us why Shakespeare matters.
  • Ben Curtis
    This was an interesting and informative course suitable for both beginners and intermediate level learners. There was a great deal of interaction with both instructors and other students, which reinforced and enriched learning. I was already very familiar with 4 of the 5 plays, but still found the content to be interesting and providing new insights. The instructors were more involved than I have experienced in many MOOCs, and this was much appreciated and enhanced the learning experience. The opportunity to share experiences and interpretations with other students from different places and cultures was a valuable part of the course experience.
  • Mark Jackson
    A very nice introduction to the language of Shakespeare. The following plays are studied over a four week period: A Midsummer Nights Dream, Othello, The Winter's Tale and Henry V. You will study the language of Shakespeare and how it is used to manipulate emotional responses. There are also sections focusing in on how a director might place actors and other elements to produce required responses from an audience. The course team are a friendly bunch who respond to the student threads. As a student who has participated in courses on Shakespeare in Futurelearn and Coursera as well as EDX this course is a recommendation from me.
  • Susmita Dasgupta
    This was THE COURSE for me. I am an economist and a sociologist by education and professional training and my work concerns both popular culture and industrial economics. I think that learning all kinds of classics is very important for me. I was actually inert to Shakespeare and I thought that was wrong. So I took the course Shakespeare Matters and it opened up another world before me altogether. I am a different human being with a different kind of intellectual honing now that I have gone through the course. I strongly recommend the course for everyone. Had I my way, I would have made it compulsory to attend in my circle.
  • Anonymous
    This course is fun and informative. It's particularly useful for those who interested in understanding Shakespeare's plays. The approach isn't overly academic but is presented in such a way that you can enjoy the course whilst learning how emotions are used in histories, tragedies, comedies and tragedy/comedy plays. The discussion sections of the course are fun as you share your opinions on the significant speeches in the plays covered. There is plenty of positive input from fellow students and the staff. I'd recommend this course to anyone who would like to know more about how Shakespeare crafted his plays.
  • Beverley Inis Watson
    I found I knew more than I thought I did but have gained so much from this course. Loved it.
    Completed all but the assignment which has 3 options. Film oneself delivering the speech, a friend doing so or write 400-600 words words.
    Also your interpretation of speech about how you would speak the speech and why, and write responses to assessment criteria.
    I have until Dec 2019 to complete this assignment but I'm not planning on doing it.
    I have no need or desire to have a certificate.
    Easy to navigate the site.
    Try it without paying for the certificate, you can choose to continue or leave at any time.
  • Profile image for Beatriz Merchan Diaz
    Beatriz Merchan Diaz
    Fue un curso para disfrutar,sin prisas ni pausas,como decimos en mi país.No me pareció un curso extremadamente difícil.Disfruté mucho de las actuaciones de los actores,a pesar de mi nulo inglés,sentía los sentimientos que nos intentaban trasmitir.Unos profesores,en "estado de gracia",geniales,y unos compañeros en el foro con los que me comunique y me divertí mucho.Evidentemente faltan muchas obras del genio,pero es un curso muy completo,donde los protagonistas son los sentimientos que afloran en todas la obras de Shakespeare.Como ya dije,espero que haya más cursos así.Saludos,Bea.
  • Debra-Ann Ashman
    Thoroughly enjoyed the course. The course felt like an engaging discussion or conversation about Shakespeare and his works, rather than a “course”. In fact, went looking for other similar courses that I could take. Wouldn’t mind a ‘Part II’ of this course. Appreciated the insight that conversations with other participants allowed, and was thrilled that presenters and instructors joined in on the discussions, providing feedback. Course DOES fulfill the stated objective. Am looking forward to applying what I learned to enrich my understanding of other Shakespeare works.
  • Gb~ Taylor Delani
    Fantastic course. I came to Shakespeare Matters ~ knowing very little about the man, the history or his works. I came away with a love for William Shakespeare and a yearning to both continue my education about him, as well as a yearning to see his works live. Because of this course, I became a member of the Ohio Shakespeare Festival and can't wait for the entire season worth of performances. I would (and will) take another Shakespeare course. I also must make a quick mention of Adelaide ~ the instructors were very helpful and hands-on. Great all around experience!!
  • Jillian
    I have always struggled with Shakespeare; the language, the themes, the sentiment... but as a Creative Writing student, I have always been told that I need to cultivate an appreciation for the big bad Bard.

    This course has helped me achieve just that. I found the content so accessible and presented in a way that has shown me how relevant Shakespeare is to my craft, especially in the portrayal of emotions.

    I can definitely recommend this course, especially for people like me who have been looking for the right opportunity to understand Shakespeare.
  • Barry Moffatt
    I thoroughly enjoyed this course. Although I am very familiar with Shakespeare, his works and times, I certainly learnt things new to me in the course, whether those things be simple facts or, and more interesting, new ways of looking at aspects of Shakespeare's work. The presentations were clear and lively and the 'graphic' sketches of the plays excellent. This would be a wonderful course for a teacher, particularly a new teacher, facing a class of typically sceptical students! It would also be a good refresher course for the experienced teacher.

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